Plant life on the High Court Bench premises under stress owing to heat wave and water scarcity

It was on March 6, 2012, that a book titled ‘Green Bench of India’ was released. Penned by two lawyers, it hailed the plant life spread over the 107-acre campus of the Madras High Court Bench at Ulaganeri here. Now, just two years down the line, the green foliage is facing the threat of turning brown and dry owing to stress caused by soaring temperature and water scarcity.

Taking stock of the situation, Justice V. Ramasubramanian, the administrative judge of the Bench, has referred the issue to the High Court’s ‘Building Committee’ comprising senior judges. The committee is expected to take steps through the State government’s Horticulture Department officials to save the trees, most of which are less than eight years old.

The High Court campus here was almost barren when it was inaugurated on July 24, 2004. When it started functioning, judges showed interest in creating a green cover and departments such as Public Works, Horticulture and Forest, were roped in. In 2006, the then MPs Thanga Tamilselvan and S.P.M. Syed Khan allocated Rs.5.32 lakh and Rs.4 lakh respectively from their local area development fund for buying 1,100 saplings which were planted on 18 acres on the southern side with drip irrigation facility.

Many tree species

Guava, jackfruit, Indian gooseberry, almond saplings and forest species such as sandalwood, rosewood and mahogany were planted. The work was gradually extended to other parts of the campus and 5,000 saplings were planted in a short period of time.

Exotic orchards and individual gardens were created in all the 12 judges’ bungalows situated behind the court buildings. Vegetables were grown in-house and used for cooking at a canteen in the VIP guest house. The High Court Registry also took steps to refill a huge water body within the campus and released fish into it. The efforts bore fruits with the campus turning into a sort of a reserve forest.

“However, such a beautiful campus has started showing signs of decay. Right from a dead tree that greets visitors at the main entrance, at least 10 per cent of the flora on the campus is under severe stress,” says advocate G. Thiagarajan. He has filed a public interest litigation petition seeking a direction to a host of officials to save the trees. He points out that water scarcity is the biggest problem. “When human beings themselves are unable to get their grievances redressed, it becomes more difficult to get the plight of the voiceless trees heard by the officials concerned,” he says.

More In: Madurai